My wife is verbally abusive

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have been married for less than a year to a wife I truly adore. We have had many ups and downs this year. However, she is subject to raging anger directed towards me. Any time that we try to resolve an issue, she blows up uses the F-word, tells me she doesn’t care about me, and doesn’t want to be in the same room with me. We are talking screaming here. Three therapists have told me that she is being irrational and suggested the possibility of emotional abuse. I have not been perfect, but I always own up to my mistakes and apologize. All I want to do is resolve an issue, and she wants to ignore it. If I try to force things she reacts (according to my therapists) WAY over the top. They have also said that she stonewalls me. My family is suggesting that I give up on the relationship, but I am not ready for that.

She has been in a bad mood for five days now, longer than ever. I don’t know if she loves me anymore and it makes me so anxious. All I want is for us to be happy again, and I feel that it is all my fault.

I don’t know how to act when someone acts like they don’t love you anymore. It is hurtful and anxiety provoking. I made an appointment for couples couseling in a few days, but i don’t know if she will go or if she will still be around in a few days. I feel so lonely and don’t know what to do about it or with myself. How do I talk myself into not giving up on her?

A: Thank you for writing. I’m concerned by your report that three therapists have told you your wife is irrational. I don’t think labels like that are at all helpful. I’m more interested in understanding why someone who loved her husband enough to marry him is now raging and screaming at him. What has happened since the wedding that has stressed her so much that she screams in frustration?

I’m very glad you are going to see a couples therapist who will take a more holistic look at the situation. Couples work isn’t about figuring out who is right. It’s about figuring out what’s going wrong in the relationship that results in people being unable or unwilling to be their best selves. If your wife won’t go, please go yourself for a few sessions. A couples therapist may give you another way to look at the situation. Further, if you go in an effort to save your marriage, it’s a statement to your wife that you think the relationship is worth it. She may decide to join you after a few sessions if she sees you responding to her a bit differently.

You loved each other enough to marry. I think that is reason enough to try couples work for awhile.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Mar 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). My wife is verbally abusive. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/03/31/my-wife-is-verbally-abusive/